NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program
Saints head coach Sean Payton's one-year suspension begins April 1 as a result of his team's bounty program.
March 21st, 2012
02:01 PM ET

NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program

[Updated at 2:01 p.m. ET] The NFL is suspending former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year because of the team's bounty program, the league said Wednesday.

The Saints also will be fined $500,000 and will forfeit their second-round selections in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, the league said.

In addition, the league is suspending Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six regular-season games, the NFL said in a statement.

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

The NFL reported this year that the Saints paid defensive players a bounty for injuring opponents as well as making interceptions and fumble recoveries during the 2009-2011 seasons. The program involved as many as 27 players and at least one assistant coach, the league concluded following an investigation.

The league said the program was administered by then-defensive coordinator Williams - who now holds the same position with the St. Louis Rams - with the knowledge of other coaches. Players regularly contributed cash to a pool, which may have topped $50,000 at its peak.

The players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout," when an opposing player was not able to return to the game, and $1,000 for a "cart-off," when an opposing player had to be carried off the field. In some cases, particular players on the opposing team were targeted, the NFL said.

After the program was reported on, Payton and Loomis said they took "full responsibility" for the practice, which they said "happened under our watch."

"These are serious violations, and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game," Loomis and Payton said in a statement this year.

Also Wednesday, Goodell sent a memo to all teams instructing them to certify that they have no bounty program. Each principal owner and head coach must make the certification in writing to the commissioner by March 30, the NFL said.

“Bounty programs have no place in our game,” Goodell said. “They are incompatible with our efforts to promote sportsmanship, fair play and player safety.”

Goodell will review Williams’ status after the 2012 season, and will pay "close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings," the NFL said.

Williams' suspension is immediate, while Payton's begins April 1.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a letter to fans following the investigation's conclusion, saying he was never aware of the infamous bounty program in which his team admitted to taking part.

"I do feel a responsibility to my teammates, the Saints organization and to the fans, to address the "bounty" allegations," Brees wrote in a letter posted Friday on his foundation's website. "There is no place in the National Football League, or any sport played at any level, for players to conspire, to be coerced, or to be incentivized to intentionally injure another player. I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."

Many former players say "bounty" incentive programs have existed in professional football for a long time. Players, who question why this scandal is shocking so many fans, say football is a violent sport built around punishing opponents.

LaVar Arrington, a former Washington Redskins linebacker who writes the Hard Hits blog for The Washington Post, wrote after the investigation that the best players in the history of football have always brought a "seek and destroy mentality" to the game.

"So in a culture where it's an unwritten part of the game to get the best opposing player out of it, that's what players have done and still do to this day. The fact that there's such outrage appears to be a bit strange to me," Arrington wrote on his blog.

The NFL said the bounty program was a clear violation of rules intended to protect "player safety and competitive integrity."

soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. Saintfantillidie

    Ouch, this sux i think its way to harsh, hell they should have paid him double for such outstanding actions 🙂 guess the saints will havw real problems this year.... But Who Dat Nation will still be the best!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      That's a pretty cute statement. Who dat nation sucks! They deserved this if not more. At least one 1st round pick should of been taken away as well.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TeamFan not Playerfan

    Can't help think that a lot of teams do this and they just got caught.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • yup

      Exactly, which is why the penalties are so harsh. Simple fact is that there's a lot of hypocrisy from defensive players. They whine because of chop blocks but then get all up in arms when someone suggests that trying to maim someone else isn't a good thing.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DMC

    Now we know what happened to the Vikings the year we should have been in the super bowl – instead of the swamp rats!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • pdward7

      yeah and it had nothing to do with a thrown interception

      March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff in San Diego

    Who Dat?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • esoteric1

      who wa dat!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. P

    Looks like the Saints going back to the Aints......


    March 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cassarit

    Didn't this guy commit a crime? If you pay someone to attack someone else, you go to jail. So should this guy. And he should be banned from the sport for life.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miguel R

      Completely agree ... legality issue sure abound depending on the location of an injury.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I have similar thoughts on this issue. I am hoping criminal charges for the individuals involved.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruh_bear

      Dude lay of the crack Then every REAL football coach should be in jail because they all give incentives for big hits. Then take the tomohawks and buckeyes and all the other insignia for hard hits or good plays pathetic.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Canada Keith

    Squeaky Clean Drew?? I somehow doubt it.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    @Ben – are you really comparing the taping of a little practice time to an organized, coach-led program of head-hunting? Fail. You just sound like a Pats hater. I don't really care about either team, your observation was just too stupid to pass by without comment.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |

    A little extra cash for a great play like a punt return for a touchdown is one thing, but offering money to hurt people is out of bounds.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Miguel R

    I can't think of a more suitable punishment to let it be know that this type of non sense will not be tolarated. It's reckless on the part of any management to deliberately seek to injured and simulataneously reward a player for injuring another. It's nearly or borderline on legality issues depending where an injury occurs. Hence, thank you for the league and Goodell for protecting the league. I hope Payton and his cronnies learn their lesson.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. x277

    Good, I know football is a naturally violent sport. But to go out and INTENTIONALLY try to injure other players should not be tolerated. The Saints are probably not the only team doing this though; only the first team to get punished for it.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wilman

    Wow...a tad excessive. Was the program deplorable? Yes...but players making $1M/year don't make big hits for $1,000....they do it because they're aggressive and it's encouraged. Bad call by the commish.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      bad call? these guys set out to deliberately injure people, even going so far as to make sure they couldn’t return to the game. People could break bones, sustain career ending injuries or even worse under such policies. They were lucky this was all they got.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DatsWho

    What a role model the Saints are for the kids watching, who want to "fit in". Yes...lets beat the other players into cripples and win like their lives mean nothing. Win at all costs, and try to get away with an occasional maim or cheap shot. Yes....the Saints are indeed a team that sickens the rest of the fans.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dakotawind

    Great!!! I have never liked NO and now here is a good reason. The whole team should have been suspended. They are a team of whiners. Bill Belichick should have been suspended too for his cheating. Someday it will catch up to him too.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rick

    This is the reason so many footballer players are thugs and have past criminal records.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
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